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Young black women call for cannabis decriminalization – here’s why
“The current cannabis convictions against members of the black community are horribly racist and disproportionate,” Natasha, 32, * from Birmingham tells me. Natasha is one of the many black women in the UK who oppose current cannabis laws as the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis in the UK has been the subject of debate for many years. Earlier this month, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he would launch a review of the feasibility of decriminalizing cannabis as part of a new approach to tackling drug-related crime (and in the part of a wider bid to gain support for the election among London’s younger population). To understand the implications of this review, it is important to know the story behind the UK’s dogmatic position on the issue. Cannabis was made illegal in the UK on September 28, 1928 as a supplement to the Dangerous Drugs Act 1920. However, doctors were able to prescribe cannabis for medical purposes in the UK. This was true, until 1971 when the Drug Abuse Act came into effect creating the classification system for Classes A, B and C, making even more drugs, like cocaine, ecstasy and ketamine, controlled substances. Since then, there have been many reviews of the drug’s medical benefits, leading ministers like Khan to consider the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis. To date, there has been little progress towards this goal, although many do not understand why. Natasha, who smokes cannabis recreationally, says the drug should be legalized. “It’s a completely natural substance,” she says. “If it is decriminalized, it will be better regulated and it will be safer marijuana than the drugs bought on the street that are often linked to PCP, and there will be less crime.” The Venn diagram between those who consume cannabis recreationally and those who are punished for their cannabis use paints an even bleaker picture. Suspicion of drug possession is the most common reason given by offices when using controversial stop and search powers, with blacks being arrested and searched 6.3 times more than whites. Responding to cries of racial discrimination, Metropolitan Police said earlier this year they would review the effectiveness of their prosecution of those suspected of possession of cannabis to tackle violence in London. “My brother was arrested and given a warning while driving to visit me at university,” Natasha continues. “He barely had a spliff on him. Blacks are not liberated at all. Fashion designer Fen, 30, from London, who smokes recreational cannabis, says she’s lost count of the number of times she’s seen people get arrested and searched, especially young people. black men. “I myself have been arrested a few times because I was smoking rolled cigarettes at that time too, I was an easy target,” she tells me. “You just have to look at the number of prisons and the number of young black men and women who are inside because of drug charges. It’s crazy. ”A quick look at these numbers confirms Fen’s claim. Black and ethnic minority offenders are much more likely to be sent to prison for drug-related offenses than other defendants, according to a study commissioned by the Sentencing Council. The study found that if possessed with intent to supply a Class B drug, 37% of white offenders should receive immediate jail time, compared to 46% Asians, 44% Blacks and 45% Chinese and other ethnicities. According to figures from the Department of Justice in 2020, one in five people found guilty of possession of cannabis in England and Wales in 2019 was black, with activists demanding reform. Niamh Eastwood, executive director of Release, an independent charity that campaigns on drug and drug law, told Refinery29: “The criminalization of possession of cannabis in England and Wales – and the unfair application of drug law enforcement more broadly – remains a key driver of disparity in the criminal justice system since the arraignment and search until prosecution and sentencing. “Criminalizing cannabis has not been effective in curbing use, nor does it help those who use it to do so as safely as possible. Instead, criminalization pushes people into the criminal justice system and exacerbates the stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs. Eastwood’s observation is supported by the harsh penalties that accompany cannabis convictions, which lock offenders into a prolonged cycle of punishment. If found in possession of Class B drugs, such as cannabis, offenders are likely to receive up to five years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both, while supply and production may see offenders locked up to 14 years in prison and given an unlimited sentence. very well, or both. The seriousness of these potential charges is not taken lightly, but often the choice to use cannabis outweighs this threat. Fen started smoking recreationally with friends at parties in 2008, but never thought she would smoke every day today. “What prompted me to smoke daily was the fact that I was diagnosed with anxiety,” she says. “I’m against the pills so the therapist told me to look into CBD instead. Personally, I like to smoke weed a lot because it relaxes me, it prevents me from thinking too much. I love to smoke, not just because it’s good for my health, but for the whole experience that comes with it. In addition to opening doors for recreational use, she adds that decriminalization and legalization of cannabis would create so many opportunities for young black men and young black girls, including jobs, and new sources of income. for the black community as it has been in the United States. “I would love to be the first black woman in UK to own a CBD business, I would love that. I would love to see more CBD and cannabis related businesses develop in the UK as I think it will be of great benefit to many of us. Lorraine, 30, from London, agrees. She started eating edibles a year ago in hopes of relieving her chronic pain from severe fibromyalgia. “At first I didn’t feel the difference, but after trying again several times, I realized that it numbed the pain in my joints, not to mention its usefulness for my depressive symptoms.” A study from Washington State University confirmed this, suggesting that inhaling cannabis can significantly reduce short-term levels of depression, anxiety and stress, while a 2019 study found that patients receiving a cannabis strain containing 13.4 mg of THC and 17.8 mg of CBD were more likely. experience a 30% decrease in chronic pain. Niamh adds that the benefits of decriminalization are well demonstrated, both for its medicinal benefits and as an economic driver for minority communities, but England and Wales are lagging far behind when it comes to reforming the law. drug policy. “Reform is coming sooner than you might think, but it is the extent to which our cannabis reforms will remove the harms of prohibition and reduce racial disparities that are of most concern.” “While these reforms may be beneficial for some, the reforms are unlikely to be of long-term benefit for black communities in particular.” Lorraine agrees and cites racism as the reason black people are disproportionately targeted for drug crimes and cannabis possession. “Racism is systemic, and whether Britain wants to admit it or not, the evidence is there,” she said. “The government is using the law to target young black men. Many other races and cultures smoke weed too, but there are still a significant number of black boys behind bars for transporting the substance. ”She continues:“ In my area all I see are white men smoking weed in public. They are not even afraid of being arrested because they themselves know that they are not the ones the police are targeting. The criminalization of cannabis is just an excuse to throw black people in jail, and secretly everyone knows it. * Names have been changed to protect identities. Like what you see? How about a little more R29 goodness, here?